What's a code switch? Well, I do it when I talk to older black folks. They are my elders, and I get all sing-songy when I talk to someone who deserves my respect. I often don't know these people well, but I treat them a lot like I would treat my grandparents. I didn't think anything of my code switching, until the man, who would later become my husband, pointed it out to me way back in the 1990s. He said I talked differently with an older black gentleman. He was right. I haven't given it much thought, but I'm sure I've code switched many, many times since then. Code Switch is also the name of a new race, culture, and ethnicity blog at National Public Radio, and bloggers there have rounded up several examples of code switching. Check it out and welcome Code Switch to the race, culture and ethnicity blogging neighborhood.
While we were in D.C., we had to watch the girls in new ways. The Metro presented all kinds of problems. Escalators. Train tracks. Rush hour. My biggest fear was that one of us would be on the train while the rest of us were on the platform. It didn't happen. Commuters were our biggest problem. They run when they hear the trains, and they rush up and down the escalators. I once lived in D.C. and told the girls to stand to the right so that those in a rush could pass us. Fine, right? Nope. Nadia defiantly stood on the left. When I pointed out that she should move to the right, she motioned with her hand that commuters should walk around. Oh, my. When I spotted Nadia running from the bathroom one day, I knew she was different. She had turned on the bathtub water and took off running and giggling. She was quite proud of herself. There were other signs. She once rapped that she didn't want to go to preschool. She told her grandfather who had pulled out loose change to share with her that her father also had money. We'll probably never know, but I think the kid could read before she let us know that she could. I'm sure we'll have a collection of stories like these by the time Nadia moves out of our house. That day on the Metro, I pulled Nadia to the right. That solved the problem, but I needed something more permanent. I have a good friend who is rebellious, self-aware, and sassy. "I'm the catch!" she told me after a man hadn't treated her in accordance with her high standards. I never forgot her mantra, and we've been friends for years. She would know what to do, and it just so happened that we were in her city. At first, my friend protested, saying she didn't know what to say. Just talk to her, I urged. She told Nadia that she knew she wanted to stand on the left, but sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do. She urged Nadia to move to the right so that commuters could walk up and down the escalator. Finally, she said something only someone who likes to break the rules could. "But in your mind you are standing on the left." Perfect -- and it worked.
UPDATE: Author Farai Chideya is asking folks who support the integrated prom to suggest on Twitter entertainers who should consider playing the prom. Use #playintegratedprom for your suggestions. Two black students and two white students are organizing the first integrated prom at Wilcox County High School in Rochelle, Ga. A biracial student tried to attend the "white" prom last year, and the police were called. The students say they are embarrassed they live in an area that has segregated proms. I hope these young people succeed in bringing their school into contemporary times. Check out the news story above.
Visiting Washington, D.C. is an affordable trip for families. Many of the attractions are free, and the Metro makes it easy to get around. I thought it would be a great learning experience for the girls, with some mild weather and Cherry Blossoms thrown in. We scored on our first goal but not our second. A few days before we arrived, it snowed. There was no sign of it when we arrived, but it was chilly and didn't really warm up until the last day we were there. That said, we would definitely do it again. Some highlights: Bureau of Engraving and Printing -- This place is billed as the money factory, and it most certainly is. We saw the making of money and learned all kinds of cool facts about legal tender. For example, did you know that 95 percent of money printed each day is to replace old and worn out money? Only five percent is actually new money for the economy. There's a lot of waiting that goes along with getting a tour of the money factory. I stood in line for more than hour the morning of our tour so that I could get four tickets. Then we were told to show up 15 minutes early for our tour and still had to wait even longer to go through security. I'm not sure if the 35-minute tour was worth all of that waiting. The good news: Simone and Nadia soaked in many of the money facts and took home some .50 cent rings with the dollar sign on them as a souvenir. Air and Space Museum -- Everything about the museum is geared toward children. From the huge McDonalds, to the 3-D movies, to the life-size exhibits. I have a feeling that Simone and Nadia would have stayed at this museum all day. If science is for geeks, I certainly couldn't tell. There were throngs of people at the museum, and it was difficult to move inside the Apollo exhibit. Simone and Nadia are fascinated by the planets and stars, and we watched Journey to the Stars, a short movie about the life of stars. They were a little scared when the stars exploded but now know more than we could have ever told them. When we return to D.C., we'll definitely make a stop at this museum. Natural History -- The only thing the girls wanted to see was the Butterfly Pavillion. Sure, we saw other exhibits because we had to go through them to get to the Butterfly Pavilion. What's the Butterfly Pavillion? It's a warm room the size of a living room that is filled with beautiful butterflies. The butterflies flutter around and even land on visitors, all to the delight of children. A tour begins every 15 minutes or so, and it was, well, priceless. The Butterfly Pavillion is in the Insect Zoo, where kids and big kids can point and even shiver when they see harmless and dangerous insects. National Zoo -- I really wanted to see the pandas. I've heard so much about them, but the Panda House was closed. When I asked why, a zoo employee told me they were trying to mate them. I forgive the pandas; we'll be back to see them one day. At the same time, I will not pardon the people who are responsible for building one of the best zoos in the country on a hill. A big hill. It's all well and good as you make your way through the zoo. At the end of the day, though, you're likely to be at the bottom of the hill. If you're going home on the Metro, you have to climb and claw your way out of the zoo. Not cool. The bird house was the highlight of our day. We saw a colorful toucan, flamingoes, owls, and an vultures. We also saw the back of a cheetah and an orangutan. They apparently were not interested in having visitors.
When I was a kid, the very most we did for St. Patrick's Day was wear green. That way, the kid standing behind me at lunchtime couldn't pinch me. St. Patrick's Day is far more involved than that. Parents are now pretending to be leprechauns, leaving clues that the little green man has visited their home. We're just a few days from Easter, which comes with its own set of expectations, and Kristen Howerton, a blogger for The Huffington Post, wants all of us to take the holidays down a notch. I agree. Check out her plea.
The authors of NurtureShock, who revealed strategies parents use to nurture their children can fail, are back with a new work called Top Dog. This time around Authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explore what it takes to raise successful children. Most of us want to raise confident and smart children, but the authors have learned that some parents don't always follow the best route to success. They coddle their children, protect their feelings, and end up hurting them more than helping them. What's the worst thing a parent can do? "Doing too much for your kid and protecting children from failure," Merryman told CNN. Bronson added: "Parents who think they're helping their children by keeping them safe from losing may be inadvertently creating kids who are less capable of competing as adults. Parents must allow their children to fail. Children should be given the opportunity to connect the dots between winning and losing and that winning takes effort." The authors were addressing sports and how some leagues don't keep score, but there are many ways that parents try to help their children. A few weeks ago, Simone had to write a book report about Betsy Ross. She had to read the book, write the report, and create a head-and-shoulders picture of Ross. Each part of the assignment had specific directions. The book report had to include certain facts, and her teacher would deduct points for careless errors. For the picture, Simone had to use household items to add texture to the piece. She used makeup pads for Ross's hair, a piece of lace for her dress, and a string of fake pearls for the necklace and a barrette in her hair. She did the rest in watercolor. I'd post a picture of it here, but it's still at school. Simone received a 100, and I was proud of her achievement. I still am. I was surprised, though, when she told me what some of the others kids had turned in for the assignment. One created a stop-motion animation video for his book report, and another created a video about his famous figure and posted it on YouTube. These are second-graders. Perhaps they are that talented, but I couldn't help but think they received a healthy dose of help from their parents. It also made me wonder when or whether the parents would get tired of doing their children's homework. I have no idea what kind of grades the other students received. All I know is that my kid earned her grade.
Okay, okay, I am definitely going to pick up or download Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. There's been such hoopla about it that I just have to see for myself what the fuss is all about. Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, "examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential," according to the book jacket. I'm looking forward to the read, but here's the thing. The book is based on the premise that all of us should be doing better. Perhaps we should. I'm pretty sure that depends on whom you ask. Women make decisions about their careers for a myriad of reasons. When I was choosing a profession way back when, I wasn't driven by money or power. I wanted to do something that I liked and that served a purpose. Journalism suited me just fine. I haven't gotten rich, and I've helped a few people along the way. Have women gotten in their own way? I sure some of us have. Then I think about all the women bloggers who earn a living online, get book contracts, and show up on the TV circuit. Those women, in my eyes, are some of the most successful women on the planet. They started with very little, made it their own, and found a way to earn a living. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm going to try to keep as open a mind as possible. Like I said, I want to read this book for myself. After I do that, I'll be sure to report back.
The other day I called someone or something stupid. The word slipped out of my mouth and I was on to the next sentence when the Word Police sounded the alarm. "You said the s-word," Simone and Nadia said in unison. My girls tend to think that if they can't say something that means we can't either. I hadn't gotten that memo. I grew up in R-rated home. My grandmother cursed on a daily basis, and my mother followed her lead. I didn't dare interrupt my parents. I also didn't let on I was listening all that closely to what they were saying in the front seat. Sure, there were words I couldn't use. Liar, dumb, stupid, just to name a few. But my elders? They could say anything they wanted. I guess if teachers and parents are going to edit words, then said teachers and parents shouldn't use them either. I hadn't given it much thought until the Word Police charged me with a language crime. Have you banned any words in your home? What words were you banned from saying when you were a kid?
1. Buy your own. The only way to know what's in hair and beauty products is to buy ingredients yourself. No, it may not be any cheaper, but the peace of mind is priceless. Skin is our largest organ, and the scalp takes a lot of abuse when we slather on store bought products without knowing what's in them. Natural ingredients, on the other hand, can be found at health stores. I buy vegetable glycerine, essential oils, jojoba and other carrier oils online or at the local health food store. Be careful. There are all kinds of ways to express oil from fruits or nuts. Steer clear of companies and manufacturers that use chemicals to express the oil, and don't be fooled by the word, "organic." If it doesn't have a sticker stamped "USDA Organic," then the item has some not-so-organic ingredients. 2. Make your own. It may take a while but eventually you'll have enough products to make your own hair and beauty products. Distilled water, vegetable glycerin, aloe vera gel and an essential oil will make a quick hair spritz. There are recipes all over the net, but I don't measure. Water is the base, followed by vegetable glycerin and aloe vera gel. Vegetable glycerin is the only problem ingredient because it can make the spritz sticky. Use less or add some water to thin it. Start with a drop of essential oil and work your way up from there. If pretty packaging is your downfall, recycle old packaging and pour your homemade goodies inside. It wasn't that long ago that women kept all of their smell goods in pretty glass bottles. Check vintage and antique stores for affordable options. One last thing, make small batches. While some argue about whether Vitamin E is a preservative, my spritzes and other goodies never go back when I add a little Vitamin E oil to them. 3. Grow your own. If all else fails, grow your own. I'm no green thumb and I've managed to keep an aloe vera plant alive for more than a year. I use it to calm mild sunburn and to cool my face, especially in the summer. Harvest a leaf from the button of the plant, slice it open and apply directly to where it's needed. Store it in refrigerator for up to a week. Always be sure to test aloe or any plant or herb on a small area to make sure you're not allergic. Enjoy!